Middle Classes in East Asia's Global Cities: Spaces, Communities, and Lifestyles

Jooyeon Rhee's picture
Call for Papers
June 21, 2016 to June 23, 2016
Subject Fields: 
East Asian History / Studies, Geography, Sociology, Urban History / Studies, Anthropology


"Middle Classes in East Asia's Global Cities:

Spaces, Communities, and Lifestyles"

International Workshop, June 21-23, 2016, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Organized by: The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace; the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies; and the Academy of Korean Studies

In the past several decades, both Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia (hereafter “East Asia”) have witnessed the dramatic growth of global cities: huge metropolitan centers that serve as dynamic hubs of economic, social, and cultural activities not only on a national and regional level but also on a global scale. The economic growth rate of cities such as Shanghai, Bangkok, Seoul, Jakarta, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur often exceeds that of the state as a whole. Global cities in East Asia also constitute major sites for the emergence of new middle classes, consisting of business and cultural entrepreneurs, managers, professionals, and white-collar workers.

Previous studies have shown that East Asia's new middle classes harbor novel expectations and demands in areas such as leisure, consumption, education, health, food safety, environmental protection, and in some cases - political rights. However, existing work has paid little attention to the concentration of the middle classes in a number of key global cities in the region and to the way this process creates a new social geography that cuts across the nation-state. Studies on middle classes in East Asia have typically overlooked the question of how residence in a particular type of geographical location - a 'global city' - may shape middle-class notions of citizenship and collective belonging. Moreover, while much attention has been paid to the rise of the middle classes in the context of a particular nation-state, few studies have explored the common regional features of East Asia's middle-classes.

In this workshop, we aim to address the above-mentioned issues by comparing features of global cities and middle-class attitudes and practices across Northeast and Southeast Asia. How does residency in a global city affect middle-class life-styles, spaces, and communities across the East Asian region? Do middle-classes in different East Asian global cities exhibit a comparable sense of ‘urban citizenship’, which co-exists with – or even subverts – their national or ethnic identification? In other words, can we think about a notion of transnational community or collective affinity based not on national or ethnic belonging but on global-city affiliation? If so, how is this notion of 'global urban' citizenship expressed and/or practiced through consumption habits, civic activities, or economic enterprises in the East Asian region? Finally, how does the rising power of global cities and their middle class inhabitants re-shape our definition of the East Asia region?

To address these issues, we call for original, unpublished papers that draw on empirical research and/or offer new conceptualizations of the study of middle class spaces, communities, and life-styles in East Asian global cities. Papers may focus on the middle classes in a single city. However, those that offer a comparison between different cities and/or a regional perspective are particularly welcome. Suggested topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The formation and features of middle-class labor, residential and/or leisure spaces and communities in East Asia's global cities
  • The role of the middle classes in the construction of global city architecture in East Asia
  • Middle-class consumption of material and cultural products; and the effects of consumer practices on social and political domains; and on identity and community formation within East Asian global cities
  • Middle-class mobility patterns between global cities in the region
  • Middle class notions and practices of citizenship in East Asia's global cities
  • Central/local state engagements with the middle-classes in East Asia's global cities
  • Notions and practices of national belonging, cosmopolitanism and/or multiculturalism among the middle classes in East Asia's global cities
  • Middle-class engagements with the urban lower-classes, rural migrants, and/or foreign migrants residing in East Asia's global cities; and how these engagements with class/national "others" contribute to the construction of middle-class identities and communities in the region

Abstracts of 300 words, with five lines of biographical information, should be submitted electronically to mcglobal2016@gmail.com by January 15, 2016

Notification of acceptance by: February 1, 2016

To facilitate discussion during the conference, presenters will be asked to pre-circulate their papers by June 1, 2016

*Pending budgetary approval, full accommodation and transportation from/to the airport will be provided during the workshop. The participants will also be offered an optional post-workshop tour to Jerusalem's Old City/ Dead Sea.

Conference Organizers:

Dr. Nissim Otmazgin, Dr. Orna Naftali, Dr. Jooyeon Rhee

Department of Asian Studies and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem



Contact Info: 

Dr. Jooyeon Rhee/Dr. Nissim Otmazgin/Dr. Orna Naftali

Dept. of Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Contact Email: